Saturday, October 13, 2007

Headline of the Day (Condi Rice edition)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The academic (and armchair) Cold Warrior comes to her senses. From the AP:

Here are the specifics:

The Russian government under Vladimir Putin has amassed so much central authority that the power-grab may undermine Moscow's commitment to democracy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday.

"In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development," Rice told reporters after meeting with human-rights activists.

"I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin. I have told the Russians that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma," said Rice, referring to the Russian parliament.

Oh... where to begin?

First, what's this "commitment to democracy" mentioned in the first paragraph? Since when has Moscow (i.e., Putin and his cabal) been committed to democracy? Putin is an opponent of dissent and opposition, as leaders of the pro-democracy movement like Garry Kasparov know all too well. Liberal democracy is hardly what his regime is about.

Second, remember when Bush looked into Putin's soul? Yeah, well... Bush and Putin are still on pretty warm terms. And, indeed, so are Condi and Putin.

Third, what about those ongoing tensions between their two countries? What about all that talk of escalation?

Fourth, Rice is right about "too much concentration of power in the Kremlin," but most of us are well beyond the stage of doubt and questioning. We have no doubt. We have no need to question. Putin is an autocrat, ruling as a law unto himself, crushing the pro-democracy movement, striving to find a way to remain in power, if not in the same office. The Duma is an impotent tool under Putin's presidency, but it would become the locus of power, superior to the presidency, under a Putin premiership, what with a crony-puppet like Viktor Zubkov installed in the Kremlin.

Fifth, how about the (unintentional) irony? Rice is worried about what Putin has done, but should she not be similarly worried about what her boss has done?

* Consider how Bush has treated the U.S. presidency's "countervailing institutions" -- ignoring Congress (or using it as a rubber-stamper), circumventing the courts (and trying to turn the Supreme Court into a partisanized wing of the conservative movement), firing federal prosecutors, packing the civil service with cronies and hacks, politicizing the intelligence community, favouring one key department (Defense) over another (State).

* Consider Bush's use of signing statements to rule as a law unto himself.

* Consider Bush's conduct of the war on terror, including illegal domestic surveillance and the use of torture in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the very principles of the United States.

* Consider the influence of executive power fanatics like Cheney, Addington, and Yoo throughout the Bush Administration.

* Consider how Bush and those around him have wreaked havoc on American democracy.

And so on, and so on, and so on...

Is there reason to worry about what Putin is up to in Moscow? Yes, absolutely. But there is also reason to worry, much closer to home, about what Bush has been up to in Washington.

Some are worrying, some are doing more than worrying, speaking out and taking action against Bush's abuses. Condi Rice, yet another enabler of those abuses, isn't one of them.

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